Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I wrote down on a scrap piece of paper our distance and time pedaling each day of our bike tour of New Zealand's South Island. That piece of paper somehow made it back all the way to the US and survived on my desk for 3 years. I am cleaning my desk. Here are the stats.
Date Time km kph
Feb 7 1:31 21.5 13.8
Feb 8 4:22 89.3 20.4
Feb 9 3:21 73.3 21.9
Feb 10 3:07 63.5 20.4
Feb 11 1:32 23.4 15.2
Feb 12 2:53 70 24.2
Feb 13 2:49 54 19.1
Feb 14 4:22 80 18.3
Feb 15 3:15 63.4 19.4
Feb 16 4:45 85.44 17.6
Feb 17 4:21 80.6 18.5
Monday, February 20, 2012
Then we ventured out for a very tasty cup of Joe and breakfast.
Next, we tried to contact Justin and Debbie again but we were not able to make our Skype work, so we just did some low key tourist stuff and souvenir shopping. We strolled around the large and impressive botanical gardens where some of the trees are over 150 years old.
There was a band playing bad covers of pop songs
I loved the living bath mat.
I also thought these topiaries were cute.
We Made our way to the airport and boarded the flight to Auckland at 8:30 pm on February 19. From Auckland, it was a 12 hour flight to Los Angles where we landed at 2:00 pm on February 19 to repeat Day 12 on American soil.
At LAX we had a 5 hour wait for our free flight on SWA. So what do you do with 5 hours to kill and when you haven't had a real hamburger for a long time? Go to In-n-Out Burger, of course!
Sunday, February 19, 2012
We got going early after using a pay phone (they still exist) to call to the Intercity bus line to learn a bus to christchurch had just left, but that there was another leaving at 12:50. We shoved the wet tent (it had rained through the night) into our panniers and ate a quick bite of yogurt and the last of our muslei and pedaled into town, First stop, the iSite. The woman there was great and after calling a few more car rental companies that were already closed by the time we rolled into town last night and finding no cars, she lined us up with tickets on the bus. Next was lodging in Christchurch. I was not going to make that mistake again! After calling 5 or 6 places with no vacancy and me growing more and more nervous of a Dunedin repeat, we found a B&B close to the bus station and downtown. Then we called the bike shop and arranged for a late exchange of our rental bikes, since we wouldn't be getting in to Chch until 7 pm. Things were falling into place.
So we had a few hours to kill before our bus left. It was raining on and off and we had not had coffee yet, so we went to a coffee shop called Mash for coffee and scones,
and a front row seat to see and hear a bagpipe band pipe in the Harley parade. Serendipitous bonus.
I should mention that my Achillies tendons are feeling pretty good, and I have been able to ride at about 80%. But we are still both suffering from the sand fly bites incurred mostly on day 7 - that's 3 days ago. These bloody little bites don't itch much right away, but oh how they itch later. I must have really itched this one or had a bad reaction or something. Drew is even worse shape. Some of his bites have blisters. The 100% deet repellent didn't work.
We then wandered down to the farmers market at the train depot. The depot is an absolutely stunning building. The black stone is basalt quarried near one of the little towns we rode through on the rail trail.
The inside is beautiful too.
The farmers market was quite large and busy. There are slight differences in the English spoken here and American English. We had seen courgettes on menus, and eaten them somewhere along the way, but we finally learned what they are: summer squash.
A nice farmer took pity on me in my wet clothes and handful of coins and sold me two apples and a tomato for $0.50. That was the best deal in New Zealand. It left us enough cash to buy a loaf of sourdough bread and a hot meat pie.
I had a few minutes to walk around town after depositing Drew and the bikes at the bus station. There are many nice buildings in Dunedin.
This one full of chocolate! World headquarters for Cadbury, I think.
Being the National Pipeband Championships, there were bagpipers on literally every downtown street. That sounded cool.
Finally it was time to escape from Dunedin on the 6 hour bus ride
through the forested hills around Dunedin and along the east coast. The bus stopped for lunch at the company owned tea house, or cafe, in Omaru. I was all full of sourdough bread and fruit from the farmers market, but Drew had the most disgusting soft serve ice cream cone in the world. Kiwis love their ice cream. The ice cream section of the supermarket is twice as big as ours in America and every little convenience store, no matter how tiny, has a freezer chest stocked full of every kind of ice cream treat imaginable. Drew had been so good up until now about not pigging out on his favorite food. This ice cream cone was a Big Disappointment.
We walked around the Oamaru, which means White Stone in Maori. There were many gorgeous buildings like this church made of the beautiful stone.
The route took us through the famous Canterbury Plains.
We arrived in Chch around 7 pm and pedaled our trusty bikes for the last time to the Grange B&B.
The Grange is very much in the area affected by the earthquakes, and on learning that the building was built in 1874 and is therefore now the oldest building in Christchurch still intact, I was not super keen on staying there. But the owner explained that this house survived the shaking because it is wood framed and sheet roofed. Plus, we would be staying in the new motel part out back.
Which was lovely and came with a small kitchen, our own bath, and 6 pillows on the bed for $150.
This part was quite new and did feel very safe. So safe in fact, that I was hoping for a small quake. I am a geologist, I live in one of the most tectonically active regions in the country, I have traveled to many tectonically active areas, and I still have not felt an earthquake. Or at least one I didn't sleep through. When we were in Chch two weeks ago, nothing. Even though they have had over 8000 aftershocks in the last year and a half. Then, the night after we left, they had a 4 point something trembler. My timing sucks.
We were both starving and in need of a real meal, so we wandered out into the destructed town to find a restaurant that was open. We found a nice little Thai place that had made a makeshift seating area outside while the inside of their restaurant got upgraded. The food was great and the beer too.
Then back to our motel for a pleasant night of watching the first TV in a couple of weeks.
Today would be our last day traveling on the bikes, and we had a big day planned. We had to finish the Otago Central Rail Trail (62 km) and then ride about 20 km on the road to a little town to catch the Taieri Gorge Vintage Steam Train to the city of Dunedin on the east coast.
We woke early, a bit stiff from that nasty bed and headed to main street for breakfast. We wanted to go the E Central Cafe, but they were not open yet, so we paid $15.50 for two pieces of French toast and ham without the fried banana, because they were out of bananas. Instant coffee came free with this meal. We were left hungry so we went next door to the E Central Cafe, that was finally open, for our usual yummy flat whites, date scones, and cheese scone to go.
Will our early start, we were on the trail by 9:34, a record for this trip. We were happy to be on the Rail trail again today instead of the road with cars, since it was quite foggy.
As the fog lifted, we began to see the lovely countryside south of Ranfurly. There were quiet little streams
Crossed by rail bridges
And lots of farmland. I was surprised to see large scale irrigation using the same brand of equipment as back home in Utah.
Another familiar site: geologic hazards!
We crossed more of the bridges made of hand-hewn blocks of schist today. You can see the chisel marks on the tan colored blocks below the gray capstone in this picture.
And there were more cool tunnels too.
That was all before the planned lunch stop at Hyde. When we got to Hyde, though, the Cokes were $3.90, so we cheaped out and ate a little snack from our now squished and crumbly bag of assorted foods and pressed on.
We were "rewarded", my word, not Drew's, with trail cuts through volcanic ash beds, or tuff.
We were now skirting the base of the Rock and Pillar Range, so named for the pillars (or tors they call them here) of rock poking out of the mountain.
And more little streams.
The next 25 km to the end of the rail trail in Middlemarch was less scenic, flat, warm, and a little bit grumpy for the both of us. Drew was tired of stopping to take so many pictures and read so many information signs, and I was just tired. By the time we reached Middlemarch, we could have used some grand finale to mark the end of the rail trail, but this is all we got,
So I made up for it with a $4.50 Coke to go with the somewhat slimy salami and cheese on our coveted cheese scone.
There isn't much in Middlemarch, but like most towns, they have a pretty church.
From Middlemarch, we thought we had 20 easy km on paved quiet country roads to get the the train station at Pukerangi.
It was a hard way to end the ride, but we made it to the train station with time to spare!
Unfortunately, the station was unmanned and more importantly unstocked, so we had to wait for over an hour with only our warm water in our water bottles to drink instead of frosty cold ones. But in time, the train did arrive
So we loaded up the bikes and off we went for a two hour ride on the Taieri Gorge Vintage Steam Train. It didn't move very fast, so it was a good transition back into motorized travel, and it gave me plenty of time to take pictures
And stand on the observation deck.
Why sometimes Lucy should travel Drew's way
It was a beautiful and relaxing train ride. But the relaxing times abruptly came to an end when we stepped off the train in the small city of Dunedin.
There are two types of travelers: those that book their accommodations and activities months in advance, and those that wait until they are in town and see what looks good. Drew is the former, I am the latter. In our 7 years of traveling together, we have always done it Drew's way. With this being our first bike tour and not knowing how far we would get each night, I convinced Drew that we should keep things loose and flexible and not book our lodging ahead. With Dunedin being a town of 110,000 people, I figured there would be at least one hotel room available. how was I to know that there was a Harley Davidson convention in town, plus the National Pipeband Championships, plus it was the first weekend the college students were back in town, and to top it all off, a large hotel had burned down three days earlier, displacing a lot of travelers? After an hour Skyping every hotel in our guidebook, then switching to plan B to rent a car and get our of town but there were no cars available either, so we grabbed a Subway sandwich and pedaled 3 km to the beach and the Dunedin Holiday Park to set up our little tent in the ensuing darkness for $36. The good thing was, we got a spot close to the beach.
The bad thing was, there was a group of college students celebrating somebody's birthday next to us that didn't quiet down until after 11 pm.
We didn't know how we were going to get to Christchurch tomorrow to return the bikes, and the wifi was down so we couldn't figure it out. To top it off, in my flustered state, I even forgot to buy beer at the convenience store, so we ate our sandwiches, took a shower, and settled in for an uncertain night on the hard ground.